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Oscar Governors Ball Chooses Zen-Inspired Understatement Over Splashy Opulence

On Oscar night the Governors Ball tried for Zen-inspired understatement instead of splashy opulence, in deference to the recession.

The Governors Ball

Photo: Line 8 Photography

When an economy of unprecedented lousiness met one of the the most traditionally lavish parties of the year last night, the result was a Zen-looking Academy Awards Governors Ball marked by restraint, compared with the drama of past years. The party took over the grand ballroom at Hollywood & Highland following the awards at the Kodak Theatre in the same complex.

The classic elements of air, fire, wood, and earth inspired this year's event, which Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions produced with ball chair Cheryl Boone Isaacs. This was Boone Isaacs' seventh year as chair, and Cecchetto has worked on the event for more than two decades. “In this economy, we wanted to go with a pared-down look, but keep it elegant and beautiful,” said Cecchetto, who drew some of her inspiration from a teahouse in Beijing. She characterized the look and feel as a “marriage of simplicity and beauty.“ Boone Isaacs added that the use of organic elements in the design was “like a breath of fresh air,“ and something “totally different"—an important difference from past years, you might say, in light of the glum atmosphere in the world outside the ballroom.

The ball's Asian-inspired designs included a focus on leafy motifs that repeated in lighting fixtures and patterns on the walls. Rows of flickering candles in wall panels contributed to a soft ambient glow. Mark's Garden supplied a variety of arrangements in variations on the Zen theme. Flowers in aubergine, green, and burgundy shared vessels with materials like grapevine, stones, and moss. Orchids, hyacinth, tulips, and calla lilies complemented bonsai trees. Mark's Garden co-owner Mark Held described this year's mood as “low-key, introspective, and refined.”

Assisted by 250 culinary staffers, Wolfgang Puck again catered the seated dinner for about 1,500 well-heeled guests. Tray-passed hors d'oeuvres included mini Kobe burgers, black truffle and ricotta pizza, and wasabi-pea-crusted crab cakes. The dinner menu included smoked salmon, pumpkin coconut soup, slow-braised Asian-spiced short rib (1,000 pounds' worth, to be precise), and spring vegetable risotto with black winter truffles as a vegetarian option. Chocolate bento boxes served as themey desserts, along with mini chocolate Oscars and other sweets.

Sterling Vineyards supplied more than 1,500 bottles for the event, and Moët & Chandon about 1,200. Patrón tequila and Ultimat Vodka provided the cocktails.